aditi chatterjee reports on a
seminar that revolved around the latest trends among India&’s urban women

VERY recently, the University of Calcutta hosted a seminar on ‘The Impact of Globalisation on Urban Indian Women’ at the Centre for Urban Economic Studies, Kolkata. The event was organised to vie for the Potential for Excellence status granted by the University Grants Commision. Sudakshina Gupta, Reader and Principal Investigator, Department of Economics, Cues, Sonali Chakravarti Banerjee, Department of Political Science, Debasri Banerjee, Department of Education and Sharmistha Banerjee, Head, Department of Business Management were the major participants at the event.
Rachel Sunden, Deputy Director of the American Center, Professor Sanjukta Bhattacharya, International Relations Department, Jadavpur University, Professor Sanjukta Dasgupta, Department of English and Former Dean, University of Calcutta, Professor Ishita Mukhopadhyay, Department of Economics, University of Calcutta, most Cues members and a large group of students also attended the event to listen to a very thought-provoking presentation on fieldwork findings.
Sanjukta Dasgupta said that there is an urgent need to sensitise people about such issues and the stories of Rabindranath Tagore were more progressive than current Bengali literature, scripts and media. These days young scriptwriters produce material with stereotypical and non-progressive concepts, particularly regarding the status of women. Looking forward to a time when urban Indian women wouldn’t have to make compromises, she touted the project as very seminal, which might as well make a fascinating book.
Sudakshina Gupta elaborated the entire concept of contemporary globalisation, that involves free flow of goods and capital, free movement among countries and open free trade, with added dimensions of technological diffusion, knowledge, General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the World Trade Organisation. Globalisation also helps reduce production time and introduces corporation strategies around the world.
Some experts say that even though capitalism was born 500 years ago, the gap between the rich and poor continues to widen. Transnational and multinational corporations have focused on competitive efficiency in market forces and changed the economic atmosphere of nations.
Unemployment has led to an increase of manpower in the informal sector. Many Indian urban women are taking to engineering, management and new technological subjects instead of traditional courses.
Due to modern facets of contemporary life, young Indian girls are coming into contact with political events from outside. These days, urban jobs also include many part-time jobs that are done over the weekend. Managerial jobs and other avenues have seen the absorption of many young women.
How far is globalisation responsible for change? In 2012-13 Gupta surveyed this agenda with 500 women. One segment comprised younger women between 20 to 25 years, who started working recently and another older group of women between 45 to 60 years who were educated during the pre-globalised era. This indeed provided enough scope for reading mindsets. The survey had structured questions on education, employment and political awareness among women. Debosri Banerjee discussed the report&’s main findings and spoke about globalisation and employment of women.
The private sector has encouraged employment for women since 1991. However, transnational jobs and new employment avenue analyses indicate that jobs are not as stable as before. Banerjee concluded by stating that there are very few Kalpana Chawlas and indicated rising trends in urban sexual harassment. She emphasised on the fact how important it has become for women to look good at office and revealed that about 88 per cent of women interviewed knew someone who had faced sexual harassment at work and chose to keep mum about it.
By the end of the programme, Ishita Mukhopadhyay pointed at the patriarchal domination of social terms in India and indicated that self-respect, social status and respectability are derived only when a woman gets married and has at least one child.